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Chenango II (CVE-28)

1941–1959

A river, county, and town in New York State.

II

(CVE-28: displacement 11,400; length 553'; beam 75'; extreme width 114'3"; draft 32'; speed 18 knots; complement 1,080; armament 2 5-inch, 8 40-millimeter, 12 20-millimeter; aircraft 31; class Cimarron)

The second Chenango (CVE-28) was laid down on 10 July 1938, as Esso New Orleans by Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Chester, Pa.; launched on 1 April 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Rathbone; acquired by the Navy on 31 May 1941; and commissioned on 20 June 1941 as AO-31, Cmdr. William H. Mays in command.

Assigned to the Naval Transportation Service, Chenango steamed in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Pacific as far as Honolulu on tanker duty. The Battle of the Atlantic heated up as the Germans launched Operatin Neuland [Newland] with simultaneous attacks on Dutch and Venezuelan oil ports to disrupt production and flow of petroleum products vital to the Allied war effort. Chenango was present at Aruba, N.W.I., on 16 February 1942 when German submarine U-156 shelled one of the island's refineries. The enemy also torpedoed and damaged U.S. tanker Arkansas as she lay alongside Eagle Dock; but a second torpedo missed the ship and ran up on the beach. Arkansas did not report casualties among her 37-man crew. The Germans did not emerge from the action unscathed, however, for the explosion of a shell prematurely in a gun barrel wounded two U-boaters on board U-156, and she received permission to put in to Vichy French-held Martinique.

Chenango was decommissioned at New York on 16 March 1942, for conversion to an auxiliary aircraft carrier, and recommissioned as ACV-28 on 19 September 1942. Carrying 77 USAAF Curtiss P-40F Warhawks of the 33rd Fighter Group, Chenango sailed on 23 October with the Operation Torch assault force bound for North Africa and on 10 November, flew off her aircraft to newly won Port Lyautey, French Morocco. She put in to Casablanca, Morocco, on 13 November to refuel 21 destroyers before returning to Norfolk on 30 November 1942, battling through a hurricane en route which caused extensive damage.

Quickly repaired, Chenango was underway for the Pacific by mid-December 1942. The ship arrived at Nouméa, New Caledonia, on 18 January 1943, with 11 Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats of Escort-Fighter Squadron (VGF) 28 and eight Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses and nine Grumman TBF-1 Avengers of Escort-Scouting Squadron (VGS) 28 on board. She then joined the escort carrier group providing air cover for supply convoys supporting the invasion and occupation of the Solomons. One of her air groups was sent to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, to give close support to the marines fighting ashore. One of Chenango's duties during this period was to stand sentry off the fiercely contested island. As part of her Solomons operations, Chenango's planes formed an air umbrella to escort to safety St. Louis (CL-49) and Honolulu (CL-48) after the light cruisers were damaged in the Battle of Kolombangara on 13 July 1943. Reclassified to an escort aircraft carrier (CVE-28) on 15 July 1943, Chenango returned to the United States at Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., on 18 August 1943, for an overhaul, then acted as training carrier for new air groups until 19 October, when she steamed from San Diego, Calif., to join the Gilbert Islands invasion force at Espíritu Santo in the New Hebrides [Vanuatu] on 5 November. During the invasion of Tarawa (20 November–8 December), her planes covered the advance of the attack force, bombed and strafed beaches ahead of the invading troops, and protected off-shore convoys. She returned to San Diego for another period of training duty.

Steaming from San Diego on 13 January 1944, Chenango supported the invasion landings on Roi, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok in the Marshalls. After protecting the service group refueling fleet ships engaged in the Palau strikes, Chenango arrived at Espíritu Santo on 7 April. She sortied for the landings at Aitape and Hollandia, New Guinea (16 April–12 May), then joined Task Group 53.7 for the invasion of the Marianas. Her planes crippled airfield installations, sank enemy shipping, and hammered harbor facilities on Pagan Island, as well as conducting valuable photographic reconnaissance on Guam. From 8 July, she joined in daily poundings of Guam, preparing for the island's invasion. She returned to Seeadler Harbor at Manus in the Admiralties on 13 August to replenish and conduct training.

From 10 to 29 September 1944 Chenango joined in the neutralization of enemy airfields in the Halmaheras in support of the invasion of Morotai, stepping-stone to the Philippines. After preparations at Manus, Chenango cleared Seeadler on 12 October to conduct softening up strikes on Leyte in preparation for the invasion landings on 20 October. Chenango and her sister ship Sangamon (CVE-26) were attacked by three Japanese planes on the afternoon of D-day and splashed them all, capturing one of the pilots. Sailing to Morotai to load new aircraft, Chenango was not in action during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, but returned on 28 October to provide replacement aircraft to her victorious sister escort carriers, who had held the Japanese fleet off from Leyte. Next day she sailed for overhaul at Seattle, Wash., until 9 February 1945.

Arriving at Tulagi in the Solomons 4 March 1945, Chenango conducted training, then sortied from Ulithi in the Carolines on 27 March for Operation Iceberg—the invasion of Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands. She gave air cover in the feint landings on the southern tip of the island, then was assigned to neutralize the kamikaze suicide plane bases in Sakashima Gunto. On 9 April a crash-landing fighter started a raging fire among the strike-loaded aircraft on Chenango's deck. Skillful work by her crew saved the ship from serious damage and she remained in action off Okinawa until 11 June. After escorting a tanker convoy to San Pedro Bay in the Philippines, Chenango sailed on 26 July to join the logistics force for the Third Fleet, then engaged in the final offensive against the Japanese.

Following the cease-fire, Chenango supported the occupation forces and evacuated some 1,900 Allied prisoners of war and 1,500 civilians from slave labor camps. She cleared Tōkyō Bay, Japan, on 25 October and after a brief overhaul at San Diego, returned to Operation Magic Carpet duty, transporting veterans from Okinawa and Pearl Harbor, T.H., to the west coast. Chenango sailed from San Pedro, Calif., on 5 February for Boston, Mass., and was placed out of commission in reserve there on 14 August 1946. She was reclassified to a helicopter escort aircraft carrier (CVHE-28) on 12 June 1955, stricken from the Navy List on 1 March 1959, sold, and removed from naval custody on 12 February 1960.

Chenango was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and received 11 battle stars for her World War II service.

Published: Tue Apr 07 08:13:50 EDT 2020